Andrija Zivkovic 20 Midfielder Benfica Serbia
Outrageously talented Serbian wonderkid that sprung to prominence during his nation’s 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup winning campaign.
Born in Niš, a historic industrial centre in Southern Serbia in 1996, Živković headed north to Belgrade aged 13, joining Partizan as a highly regarded winger. Having worked his way up through the ranks, the youngster made his first team debut against Novi Pazar on 28 April, 2013. Drafted into the first team squad at the start of the 2013/14 season to replace the Benfica bound Lazar Markovic, Živković quickly made a distinct impression on the Partizan faithful. Arriving as a 65th-minute substitute in the first game against Radnicki, the young winger embarked on a solo run which culminated in his side’s fourth goal of the game and his first for the club.
With such an impressive cameo appearance under his belt, Živković became a regular starter under Coach Vuk Rašović and scored in each of the four opening league games for his side. He also received a full international cap from Sinisa Mihajlovic in a friendly against Japan in October.
Used a little less frequently, at least initially, by new Partizan coach Marko Nikolić, the winger continued to play an important role at junior International level for his country. By May 2014 Živković ended the season as Serbia’s young player of the year and had briefly become the club’s youngest ever captain.
2016 has been...
The 2014-15 Serbian Superliga season saw Živković feature regularly, swapping flanks to great effect with Nikola Ninkovic, playing his part in another title winning season for the Black Whites. However it was the early part of the 2015-16 campaign which truly saw Živković stand out. Impressive performances against Steaua in the Champions League Qualifiers, and against Augsburg and Alkmaar in the Europa League placed him firmly in front of Europe’s richest clubs. Reports circulated that Benfica had bettered an offer from Liverpool and clinched a deal for the winger at the end of 2015.
But from this point onward things start to get complicated.
In 2014, a cash strapped Partizan sold 50% of Zivkovic’s economic rights to the Cypriot club Apollon Limassol – the club allegedly used as a vehicle by agent Pini Zahavi to exploit third party ownership laws. The deal included a penalty clause whereby if an offer for the midfielder was rejected by either club or player, Partizan would have to pay Apollon €2.5m.
As the year has passed by details of exactly who rejected a low ball offer from Benfica, be it Živković’s father or Partizan themselves, has muddied considerably. But as the January transfer window closed, the player remained in situ and failed to sign a contract extension. The penalty clause was thus activated and Živković was promptly banned for the remainder of the season by his club. A move to Benfica eventually transpired in the summer, but further complications have since arisen. Živković has threatened legal action against Partizan for non-payment of wages, while Partizan have still to pay Apollon the €2.5m.
Živković has played the sum total of six minutes worth of league football for his two clubs this year, as well as a further 56 minutes for his national side. The only serious match practice that he has been involved in is for the Serbian under 21 team, where he has performed reasonably well but is no longer the great hope that many once considered him to be.
In terms of weakness, there was a point where you’d really struggle to find anything amiss in Živković’s game considering his age. Consistency is one area that could have been improved on, but that’s a criticism that could be levelled at any young player. Živković is quick, clever, technically accomplished and dangerous within range of goal. He’s also particularly useful at set pieces but, as with everything else here, we just wonder how much this year will impact his development.
The one positive we can take from 2016 is that things couldn’t have been much worse (yes, we know), and that Benfica at least have a track record of gradually building players up rather than throwing them straight in - Živković can certainly look at Messrs Markovic and Matic as good reference points. Nevertheless, this turmoil of 2016 appears to have been highly unnecessary and just highlights the chaos that money can cause when it becomes the main priority.
D We can’t remember what you look like
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